When I was pregnant with my first child, I stopped hitting the gym regularly around 20 weeks, when my expanding belly and loose ligaments made hard workouts uncomfortable. The second time I was pregnant, I was determined to stick with my workout routine till the end. Not only was it good for my physical health, but it was critical for my mental health too. Gym time = time away from my three-nager at home.
My last time in the gym was my due date — three days before my daughter was born. After pushing through the first-trimester exhaustion I really looked forward to my pregnant workouts, and even reveled in the surprised looks I got from other patrons as I waddled through the gym.
Still, as my belly grew, it became hard to find workout clothes that were comfortable and practical. By the end I was constantly pulling up leggings rolled under my bump, and wearing my husband’s large t-shirts to cover my top half. It wasn’t comfortable and it certainly wasn’t stylish.
Which is why I was so glad to hear that Nike is launching a maternity line, Nike (M). According to Carmen Zolman, senior design director of apparel innovation at Nike, the line was designed after speaking with 30 women who are pregnant or recently pregnant.
“We truly put the same force and power behind this collection that we put behind any of our other big sporting moments,” Zolman told Glamour. “This is the full power of Nike on an equal playing field.”
Professional golfer Michelle Wie West, who gave birth to a baby girl in June, shared her input about the line. During her pregnancy, she was frustrated by the lack of comfortable and practical exercise gear for pregnant bodies, she said.
“When I found out that Nike was dedicating a whole line just for maternity wear, I felt so empowered—I felt special,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I needed to work around outfits and try to make something work. I knew that every piece in the line was specifically engineered for me. And that felt so amazing.”
The Nike (M) collection includes high-waiter leggings, a nursing sports bra, a tank top and a cover up designed to work for breastfeeding. All of the items are designed to adjust for size changes during pregnancy and postpartum.
It’s great to see a major brand acknowledge that pregnant women exist, and our bodies are capable of being strong and active throughout pregnancy. It’s especially important for Nike, which hasn’t exactly been the most friendly company to pregnant women in the past.
In May 2019, Olympic runner Alysia Montaño shared in an op-ed for The New York Times how Nike regularly reduced sponsorships for pregnant women or paused their contracts, taking away a vital economic resource.
“Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” Phoebe Wright, a runner who was sponsored by Nike for 6 years, told Montaño. “There’s no way I’d tell Nike if I were pregnant.”
After the op-ed went viral, Nike standardized their policy for maternity leave. The new policy guarantees that athletes will receive their regular pay and bonuses in the 18 months surrounding their pregnancy and postpartum period. The policy aims to “to ensure no female athlete is adversely impacted financially for pregnancy,” the company told The Washington Post.
Alex Morgan, a soccer player who is sponsored by Nike, trained to be ready for the 2020 Olympics before they were postponed. That’s pretty amazing, considering that she also gave birth in May. She hopes that having functional workout clothes designed for the postpartum period will help other moms care for themselves.
“In the postpartum period, everything is about the baby and nothing’s about ‘How are you feeling? How’s your body doing? How’s your mind doing? How are you sleeping?’” Morgan said. “Having brands support me in my journey is really important because it gives me a chance to recover the right way. To take my time and have that support and feel not alone.”